How often do we encounter boring presentations where after 10 minutes you completely fall asleep or still figuring out what he/she is actual trying to say? Within this article, I want to provide you with some basic tips how you can quickly turn those boring slides to a well-organized story (yes…a story…not a presentation).
#1 It’s not about the slides, it’s about the story!
A presentation is only a tool that helps you to get a story across to your audience. But how many sales, or business, professionals actually use this approach? Think about it, how many are simply just saying the ‘text’ which is already stated on the slides? This is WRONG, as the slides should only provide additional clarification, clarity or numbers to ‘back-up’ your business case. So, make sure you TELL the story and not the things which are already on the slides as an automated text speaker (we already have Alexa or Siri to-do that.
#2 Look at your audience, not to the presentation
If you are presenting, ensure you look to your audience and not to the presentation behind you. You want to engage, and it starts with eye contact, with your audience as they want to see you OWN the story. This gives the audience the impression you don’t talk through slides, but you are actually engaging with them and know exactly what is in the presentation. However, very often we see presenters just stare at the wall (where the beamer projects your presentation) and just read the lines without any emotions. This makes your audience fall asleep and shows a lack of preparation.
#3 Be confident
It all starts with you how your audience follows your story. If you are going to talk in a monotone way, everyone will fall asleep within 10 minutes. Train your voice, ensure you know the story inside out and speak up. If you have the possibility to stand up in front of your audience, then STAND. Make sure your pockets are empty, don’t put your hands in your pockets either and use them to bring your story and yourself alive (of course, with common sense). Don’t play with things in your hands (like a pen or phone), use open hands instead. There are plenty of tips and tricks on the internet on what not to-do whilst presenting and how to train your voice.
#4 Use emotions
So, we’ve covered the fact that you are telling a story and you should look at your audience with confidence. Now, you have to bring the story alive. Let your audience see how much you believe in your product, company or whatever you want to bring across. Be enthusiastic, energized, thrilled and full of confidence. If you don’t believe in your story, the message will simply not come across. People want to see that you believe in it, so show it to them.
#5 Stay in-control from the beginning
One key aspect of presenting to an audience is to ensure you stay in-control. You have to control everybody with everything in the room, no exceptions. People will come back at you with rejections, questions, answering phone-calls, typing Emails, etc. If this happens, you have to regain control. Yes, even to your exec. management or customers. You don’t want them to control your story. Handle rejections immediately, get everybody back to your story, and continue… Your time is valuable and everybody should know and respect that.
#6 Timeline VS slides
Time your story to the available time you have. Meaning, if you have 30 minutes to pitch your story, don’t use more than 10 to max 15 slides. You have to ensure that the main components of your story are captured in those 30 minutes and you absolutely don’t want to rush through them as your audience still needs to follow you and the brain needs time to see, capture and store relevant information. Always leave some spare time for questions at the end, at least 5 minutes, because you want to agree upon the next steps. This is very important as you don’t want the conversation to stop here, but for example, a 2nd appointment to explore how both companies can work together to reach a deal.
Structure your presentation from the beginning so your audience knows what to expect when. Start with a short introduction (if meeting new people) and follow up with a short story that starts the ‘official presentation’. Once the presentation has started, quickly highlight the agenda. You don’t want them to fully introduce themselves or their company as this will costs valuable time from your presentation. Instead, tell your audience you know their company and figures, and allow them to quickly introduce themselves with name, role and department, that’s it.
Limit your agenda to max 5-7 points, regardless of the time you have to present. Short and precise bullets that explain what will be discussed during that specific agenda point. Why only 5-7? Test it yourself next time you are the ‘audience’ and someone has an agenda of 15 topics, how many can you remember after 20 minutes? Next, test a presentation with only 5 topics… you get it, right?
#9 Customize your titles
Use titles on your slides and customize them to your audience. Titles like ‘Solution’, ‘Governance’ or ‘Best practises’ are saying something, but also nothing. Customize them to your specific audience and end each title with: “…so what”. If there is no answer to ‘so what’ you need to adjust the title. You want the title to explain the value or benefit for the customer in the slide. It should also be aligned with your overall story. Some examples: ‘Our state-of-the-art solution that will generate additional 23% end-user productivity from day one’ or ‘Our joint Governance will ensure open communication and quick decisions if required’ and last but not least ‘Best practises from the market place customized for your organization to minimize business impact’. Titles should hook them into the slide, whilst you are presenting the story, and logic, behind it.
#10 Keep it Simple, Stupid
Don’t use too much text or numbers in your slides, keep it clear, simple and straight-forward. Ensure your slides are read easily and people can understand it without asking questions or need to look things up on the internet. If there is a picture in the slide, ensure you explain what it means. Don’t fill the slides just to fill areas of white as something stating less is actually saying more. Slides should be self explained even when you are not in the room.
#11 Content (Croc Brain, Mid-Brain and Neocortex)
Stories or presentations always start from the croc brain to the mid-brain and finally to the neocortex. The story and content has to follow this logic otherwise the (audience) brain will not store the information received and/or completely block it. How this process works and how to build your story on this principle is well described in the book ‘Pitch Anything’ from Oren Klaff *. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.
I hope these 11 tips will help you to become a more confident presenter.